Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Information Gathering

Intrigue, murder plots, espionage, and all kinds of mysterious activities were part of my ancestors story.  Working through these events as a genealogist was quite a challenge.  [Lots of brick walls here!]

The following text gives one aspect of many issues contained in my family tree.  It is called "Her Majesty's Spymaster". 

On several levels, the Catholics and Protestants were at war with one another.  My Jones family represented those Welsh Catholics who came up on the wrong side of the fence.

The book by Stephen Budiansky presents the story surrounding the "Birth of Modern Espionage".  Published in 2005 by Plume [Penguin Group], N.Y., it is only 154 pages, and is written in a journalist style.  It is the life of Sir Francis Walsingham and his abilities to develop  methods of information gathering.  A context which is vital to understand surrounding the religious conflicts of the day.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mary Queen of Scots

Volumes of dialog have filled the pages of history regarding this Queen of the Scots.  She occupies a role in the history of ideas surrounding the religious beliefs of the day.  For my own family history (genealogy) she plays a significant part in one historical event called "The Babington Plot".  [One of my family members was "hanged, drawn, and quartered" as a result.]  Her story is told in many references.  A brief account is:

A biography by N. Brysson Morrison is a 254 page account of her life.  It is intended for the "general reader" with an interest in this period of time.  It was published in 1960 by The Vanguard Press, Inc., NY.  It is written by a novelist and fellow Scot.

Now a much more detailed account can be found in the following:

It is a 595 page account of the life and times of this controversial figure. [Chapter 24 is titled "The Babington Plot"]  The author, Antonia Fraser,  writes that one of her aims of the book:

 "...I wished to test for myself the truth or falsehood of the many legends which surround her name".

Published and unpublished sources, including Mary's own letters, are included.  [Primary documents indeed.]  Illustrations are given to the number of 46.  References and notes are extensive.

The book was first published in England by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1969.    Truth or falsehood, one must decide for themselves.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


From 1492, the western nations of the world began their "name it and claim it" enterprises.  Religious beliefs were accepted, and served as a major driving force to those adventurers seeking their claim to fame.  [Either in Heaven or on Earth.]

In 1493, the head of this driving force [Alexander VI] could arrange "all lands" to those nations already leading this new exploration. [Spain and Portugal]  Of course, those left out in the cold were to express different opinions regarding the "name" and the "claim" of this new world. 

As time progressed, the Religious beliefs fragmented along the lines of what became called "Protestants" and "Catholics".   It was the "Tudor" age that was to make the most of these differences, changing the Catholic world in England, and beginning an all out war between the nations, and people, that followed each belief system.  It was this division that came to my attention as I climbed my own family tree.  For, my family was "Catholic" in a "Protestant" world.  This produced a great deal of issues for all involved.  The following book discusses some of these factors in the reign of Elizabeth I.

It is titled "Danger to Elizabeth" and is written by Alison Plowden.  It helped introduce me to the concerns of  what became a "Catholic" underground in a predominant "Protestant" world.  It seemed that many in my family participated in a number of events that were to impact their lives and  fortune.

It was first published in 1973 by Stein and Day/ Publishers/Scarborough House, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.
The subtitle is "The Catholics under Elizabeth I".  Little did I know in 1973 [being Protestant and not meeting a Catholic until high school] that this would become part of my families' story.